The need for urgency on environmental sustainability

New Zealand politicians dilly dallying at a time when there is clear evidence that the world has entered a critical phase for humanity, and for environmental sustainability is undoing our reputation as an environmentally responsible nation.

Although by default I tend to support centre-left ideology, I am finding the tendency for endless reviews, working groups, and the creation of agencies instead of reform or stream lining the existing ones frustrating. In the context of the environmental emergency, the Green Party announced a review of how we handle waste as a matter of priority, but 18 months after the Government took office there is no clear signal about what was the outcome.

This has me thinking whether we really needed a review and whether it is just hiding the possible fact that they have no immediate policy announcements to make on it.

Just last week, it was announced that West Coast had aborted a planned waste-to-energy plant that when operational would make the province self sufficient in electricity. The plant, which was the brain child of a Chinese company, was first mooted in 2016, but had stalled due to a lack of council support. The plant would have taken in waste from across West Coast and burned it at a site in Buller District.

Another area where the urgency of the rhetoric being spouted is not matching the actions being (or not being)taken, is on climate change. Despite the announced ending of oil and gas, there has been little done to identify, research and if possible, develop alternative sources of energy. Nor has there been much done to adapt existing technology to alternative sources.

A suggestion that people stop flying just about made me laugh out loud. Aside from the sheer impracticalities for the developed society, there are a host of other reasons why this is at least at this time, totally and utterly unrealistic:

  1. Many nations, such as New Zealand are simply not geographically structured for driving everywhere. It would take at 8 hours steady driving each day 3 days for someone to drive from Invercargill to Auckland.
  2. Road traffic would have to exponentially increase, and I thought we were supposed to be the number of cars on the road
  3. No evidence of any major aircraft manufacturer developing electric planes – one major problem is that the thrust in the engines needs to be strong enough for it to get airborne
  4. Flying is one of the safest modes of transport – millions of people around the world are airborne every day and how many of them die in a plane crash?

Far more realistic if we are even going to consider changing peoples flying habits would be to put a tax on corporate jets. And maybe support Air New Zealand’s one time investigation into whether planes could fly on biofuel.

It is not that I do not want a change in how we do things to a more sustainable manner. I desperately do, but some of the suggestions that are coming up lack any sense of realism. And politicians seem to think that action is having another review or an inquiry.


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